Marketers, Renting Email Lists Is a Bad Idea (No Matter What Trump Is Doing)

If you’re taking email marketing inspiration from the Republican nominee, it’s time to reconsider

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For the second time in less than three months, Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump’s email marketing efforts are making news. Yesterday, Politico reported that while former rival Ted Cruz took nearly five months to endorse Trump, he began renting out his campaign email list to Trump in mid-June, collecting fees of up to $51,000 per email to communicate with his 280,000 donors and 1.28 million supporters.

In total, Trump’s campaign has paid Cruz more than 30 times to send messages to his supporters. Why? Because Trump is looking to do everything he can to increase donations and engagement among his target group of conservatives, and renting Cruz’s list allows his campaign to reach a large number of people within that group easily (albeit at a steep price). And Cruz is hardly the only former presidential candidate renting out an email list: Scott Walker started doing so last December, and even Trump’s current opponent, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, rented out her 2008 presidential campaign email list to pay down her campaign’s $5.9 million debt.

You may be asking yourself: should I be renting email lists, too? The short answer? No.

For marketers, renting email lists is a serious risk. You’re paying significant amounts of money for the right to send commercial messages to people who haven’t expressed any interest in your brand or its product and services. That means there’s a strong chance that the recipients of your email will interpret your outreach as spam and immediately disengage, seriously reducing the effectiveness of your messaging. Even worse, depending on the vendor you’re renting from, it’s possible that messages you send to a rented list could violate anti-spam legislation like the U.S.’s CAN-SPAM Act and Canada’s CASL anti-spam law. While political messages like Donald Trump’s emails are exempt from both CAN-SPAM and CASL, commercial emails aren’t, potentially making your outreach liable for fines of up to $16,000 for each violation of U.S. law and up to $10 million Canadian for every CASL violation.

In short? If you’re looking to improve your marketing, you’re going to be better off emulating Hillary Clinton’s mobile engagement strategy than Donald Trump’s email practices.

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